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Patu!

The most controversial, and the most contested, event in recent NZ history was the 1981 South African rugby tour. Half the country opposed the tour, the establishment was determined it would go ahead; the result was a country divided almost to the point of civil war. Patu! shows what happened.

Patu!, New Zealand, 1983

Director/producer: Merata Mita
Co-ordinators: Gaylene Preston, Gerd Pohlmann, Martyn Sanderson
Photography: Barry Harbert
Additional Photography: Warrick Attewell, Alister Barry, Alun Bollinger, Roger Donaldson, Euan Frizzell, Leon Narbey
Editor: Annie Collins
Sound: Gerd Pohlmann

16mm, PG cert, 113 minutes

The year the Film Archive was founded was also the year the Springbok Tour revealed a huge division in New Zealand society. As thousands of New Zealanders took to the streets to demonstrate their solidarity with the victims of apartheid, battalions of filmmakers and photographers recorded the confrontations with police and rugby diehards. The credit list on this film is a who’s who of the renaissance of New Zealand cinema. Their contributions, running to many hours, were edited into an incredibly persuasive feature by Merata Mita. ‘You may even be in it’ ran the tagline on the posters, but the tone of the film is far from self-congratulatory. Mita was determined that Patu! screenings not become the RSA for anti-tour vets. Disgust at apartheid and dissatisfaction with New Zealand race relations are inseparable in her film. The original 16mm theatrical release version of Patu! which premièred at the Festival in 1983, ran 113 minutes. Merata subsequently recut the film for international release to 84 minutes. – New Zealand Film Festival, 2006

“The most controversial, and the most contested, event in recent New Zealand history was the 1981 South African rugby tour. Half the country was opposed to the tour, the establishment was determined the tour would go ahead, and the result was a country divided against itself almost to the point of civil war. This incredible documentary shows what happened. The actual filming was both dangerous and difficult and attempts to have the negative confiscated... [Merata Mita’s] achievement is as impressive technically as it is effective emotionally. A major documentary of our time.” – London Film Festival.

“Many people gave their time, money and equipment to see Patu! completed, and it could never have been done otherwise. I was asked repeatedly if I thought I was the right person to make the film, or why I was making it. The reason I was asked the question was that some people told me they feared that the film would not be accurate because it would have a Maori perspective! The Päkeha bias in all things recorded in Aotearoa was never questioned. The other reason they gave was that my politics extended no further than the Maori and the marae, and was I sure I understood the international ramifications of the tour. Yes, Patu! has a Maori perspective but it does not override the mass mobilisation of New Zealand’s white middle class, neither does it take credit from those who rightly deserve it, everyone who put themselves on the line. My perspective encourages people to look at themselves and examine the ground they stand on, while fighting racial injustice thousands of miles across the sea.” – Merata Mita.

Screenings: Patu! was selected to screen in the Filmland Neuseeland programme curated to support New Zealand's status as country of honour at the Frankfurt Book Fair 2012; and has screened 13-16 July 2011, to mark 30 years after the tour; and as part of the NZ Feature Restoration Project at the 2006 Film Festival on 22, 27 & 30 July & 4 August 2006